Presentation of Meritorious Service Decorations and Military Valour Decorations
Rideau Hall, Friday, June 22, 2012
It is my pleasure and my honour to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall. As commander-in-chief, I know of few greater joys than celebrating the accomplishments of the men and women who comprise our Canadian Forces.
The Meritorious Service Decorations and Military Valour Decorations both play important roles in our Canadian Honours System, and we hope this year to raise the profile of these honours and your stories. Stories of bravery, of sacrifice, of resolve, of kindness, of generosity. Stories that can never be forgotten.
Just last month, a new exhibit opened across from Parliament Hill, one that showcases our awards, decorations and medals and that highlights what the members of the Canadian Forces have done for this country.
“From Far and Wide—Honouring Great Canadians” gives us all the opportunity not only to see how our country honours its people, but also to discover a fraction of what soldiers like you have done throughout your careers and to learn about the lives you have saved through your actions.
And it gives all Canadians a clearer idea of what you experience in the world. You protect our values, you defend our freedoms, you promote goodwill, you rebuild, you serve. You wear so many different hats from one day to the next that it is difficult to pinpoint a single duty.
But you are all striving for and working towards a more peaceful, more just society. As members of the military, you know that peace is a sign of strength, that it is a force more powerful than war, and that it requires vigilance to maintain.
Lester B. Pearson, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, served in the First World War, supported the troops in the Second World War, and spent many years as a diplomat during the Cold War. He respected what the Canadian Forces did in times of war. And yet, he never lost the certainty that peace was possible.
When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957, he made it quite clear that peace was not a dream, but an achievable reality. But we must all work together to make this happen.
He said, “If there is to be peace, there must be compromise, tolerance, agreement.”
Today’s conflicts may not be fought in the same manner as those of the past, but the battles are no less fierce and the dangers are still ever-present. And yet, all of you, no matter where you are in the world and no matter the cultural or language barrier, all of you work with people towards compromise, tolerance and agreement.
When we achieve these things, when we can go out in the world and build trust as I have seen soldiers do on so many occasions, we are creating not just peace, but long-lasting peace, one that can be enjoyed for generations.
Lester Pearson understood that dialogue was one of the ways we can accomplish this. And that is what you are engaging in when you serve.
During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, our then future prime minister quoted Spinoza, and I would like to do the same today. He said that “peace is the vigour born of the virtue of the soul.”
We honour today your bravery in the field, your actions which directly enhanced the safety of your comrades-in-arms. Yet, I would be remiss if I did not also honour how you have defended the ideals that we hold dear and how you have helped to promote peace, sometimes by the strength—by the virtue—of your character alone.
Congratulations to all of you and thank you for your continued service.